I sit on a bench in the small rustic gazebo and gaze at the view. Woods surround me. A small lily pond, crowded with flowering water plants, ends at the arched bank to a railroad. On the other side is the beautiful Hudson River. Dragon flies buzz quietly nearby. The Catskill Mountains are silhouetted behind the other bank of the river. It is easy to see how this idyllic setting could inspire poets.
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Poet’s Walk is a scenic trail on the east side of the Hudson River. It looks like a nature preserve, but is actually a designed landscape.
A Poet’s Walk History
The area was cleared for farmlands about 300 years ago. Around 1850, Poets’ Walk was created by replacing the farms with a landscaped garden. It was created to be an ideal nature walk using the concept that you walk through a series of “outdoor rooms”. The ‘rooms’ along Poet Walk are open meadowed areas surrounded by woods. They are created by a narrowing of the woods at several points, so that you walk through a ‘doorway’ and enter another meadow. The areas differ in size and shape. It’s a nice concept.
It was originally names Steen Valetje (Little Stony Falls in Dutch). Its name was changed to Poets’ Walk Park because of the many writers that used to walk along this trail. They include Fitz-Greene Halleck and Washington Irving, who supposedly got the idea for Rip Van Wrinkle when looking at the Catskill Mountains across the river from here.
Poets’ Walk, NY Essential Details
- Poets’ Walk, NY Distance: 2.25 miles/ 3.62 km in total
- Parking lot to Overlook Pavilion 0.66 miles/ 1.06 km
- Overlook to summerhouse 0.25 miles/ 402 m
- Overlook to lookout 0.5 miles/ 804 m
- Poets’ Walk, Rhinebeck, NY Elevation change: 203 feet/ 61.6 m
- Total time: About 1 hour 15 minutes (longer with some stops)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Poets’ Walk, Red Hook, NY parking lot just off River Road. Note: There are no restrooms in the parking lot or along the trail.
- Highlights: Views of the Hudson River, Catskills and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge; Arts and Crafts style pavilions and benches
- Fee: Free
- Open: Year-round. Gates open every day at 8:30 a.m. Closing hours vary according to the season:
- November 1 – March 13 @ 6:00 p.m.
- March 14 – April 30 @ 7:30 p.m.
- May 1 – September 30 @ 8:30 p.m.
- October 1 – October [email protected] 7:30 p.m.
- Dogs on a leash are allowed
The Poets’ Walk Trail is a short, very well-marked and easy trail. Beginner hikers should have no trouble with this walk. However, some useful hiking resources for this and other hikes are:
- How to Read Trail Markers
- Hiking Etiquette 101
- Hiking Guide for Beginners
- Day hike essentials packing list
- Hiking Guide and list of great hikes to do
Poets’ Walk Trail Map
Poets’ Walk Trail Description
There is a reasonably sized parking lot, with a map and some trail information. Note that there are no restroom at the parking lot.
‘Rooms’ / fields
The Poets’ Walk trail starts in the first ‘room’, a small field surrounded by woods.
The ‘room’ is separated from the next one by the woods narrowing.
The path goes through this ‘doorway’ created by the trees close on each side and then the vista almost immediately opens up again into another grassy field. The grass here is sprinkled with wild flowers and has several birdhouses to encourage the beautiful birds that are all around the area to nest.
In the third ‘room, there is a bench to the right, so you can sit and enjoy the views of the fields and woods.
The trail goes through another ‘doorway’ into the fourth ‘room’. The trail is sunny, with little respite from the sun in this section.
After entering the fifth ‘room’, there is a small rise to Overlook Pavilion, which you can easily see in the distance.
At the bottom of the rise before the Overlook Pavilion, there is a mowed wide grass path through the fields off to the right. This is a shortcut that bypasses the pavilion. I recommend sticking to the main trail and going up to the pavilion, though you can take the shortcut back.
Overlook Pavilion is an open-air Arts and Crafts style pavilion built from logs, with benches around the inside edges.
Hudson River views
Soon after, the trail splits.
There are a couple of benches here to sit on and enjoy the views of the river and bridge. There is a small sign indicating The Lookout to the left and The Summerhouse to the right. The rest of the trail is a loop, so you can go either way.
If you take the right option (actually straight ahead), the trail almost immediately enters the woods and dips down, crossing a stone bridge and then a wooden bridge before coming to the side trail to the Summerhouse.
However, I recommend taking the trail to the left. This way, the trail goes along a flat ridge, through another narrowing and enters another ‘room’.
Then through another ‘room’ from which there are lovely views of the river as you walk along the trail. If you do the loop in the other direction, these views will be behind you rather than in front of you.
You will soon come to Kara’s Lookout.
There is the remnant of an antique flagpole, which is not that exciting to look at, but a small plaque explains that directly below used to be a dock belonging to the Delanos’ Steen Valejte Estate that was so big that a carriage with four horses could circle around on it.
There are also a couple of benches here to sit and enjoy the views. The bridge is to the left. To the right, a gap in the trees gives nice views of the river and the Catskill Mountains beyond. Perhaps this is where Irving got his inspiration for Rip Van Winkle. If you’ve never read it, it’s an American classic short story and worth a read – you can get it on Amazon here.
Into the woods
From the Lookout, the trail heads downhill, down a short staircase and soon enters the woods. There is a cute wooden bridge crossing a stream and the path then winds up and down a little. The trail is easy to follow and it is not especially strenuous.
There is a lily pond off the left.
Soon after this, there is a split in the trail.
To the left is a short side spur to the ‘Summerhouse’, a small gazebo with some seating and couple of additional benches nearby.
It is worth taking this trail. From the Summerhouse, there is a lovely view of a lily pond and the Hudson River beyond. The main railway line north of New York City separates the lilypond and the river, so there is no trail down to the river’s edge.
Back on the main trail, turn left to continue on the loop.
You will pass over two more small bridges.
A pretty stone bridge and another wooden bridge.
Return to the parking lot
Soon after, the trail emerges from the woods, just before the end of the loop.
You can continue up the hill back to the Overlook Pavilion, or take the mowed path to the left, which is a shortcut that bypasses the pavilion. Follow the same trail back through the ‘rooms’ to the trailhead/ parking lot.
Additional consideration: Travel Insurance
If you are traveling to the Hudson Valley from elsewhere in the U.S., check to see if your health insurance covers you. If not, and if you are traveling from abroad, you will definitely want to get travel insurance. If you are not sure what it is all about, read my Guide to Buying Travel Insurance.
A great insurance option is World Nomads. You can book it online here or get a quote for your trip right here:
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Books about the Hudson Valley
When I’m planning a trip, I like to learn as much about that place as possible. Something that helps give me a sense of a place, beyond blogs, is to read books set there, or history books about it. To that end, I am including some books to inspire you while you wait for your trip.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving
Two short stories that are legendary in American literature. TBH, when I read Sleep Hollow recently, I was underwhelmed and not at all scared. But it is fun to visit Sleepy Hollow in the southern end of the Hudson Valley and see where it was set.
As I mentioned, Rip Van Winkle, a classic story of a man in the Catskill Mountains who fell asleep for twenty years, was supposedly inspired by the views of the Catskills from Poet’s Walk, so why not read the book, visit Poets’ Walk and then drive up into the Catskills yourself?
Hidden History of the Mid-Hudson Valley: Stories from the Albany Post Road (2011) Carney Rhinevault and Tatiana Rhinevault
This is an easy introduction to the history of the Hudson Valley, based on stories of things that happened and people who lived along the Albany Post Road, the main road between New York City and the state capital in Albany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are plenty of fascinating fun facts, events and characters, including safe houses on the Underground Railroad, riots, spies and more. Worth a read if you are interested in history.
Fathermucker: A Novel (2011), Greg Olear
A hilarious take on a fatherhood – about a father/ husband who is the primary caregiver while his wife is mostly absent for her work. Witty, sad, real… You will laugh and cry and love every bit of it. I am not a father, but still related to its humor and ‘realness’. Kind of in the vein of Nick Hornsby, so if you like his books, chances are you will love this one.
A Violet Season: A Novel (2012), Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Set on a violet farm in the Hudson Valley in the late 1800’s, this saga about a mother and daughter is a real page turner. If you like historical fiction, this is a nice way to learn more about the Judson Valley.
Enjoy the hike and views!
Do you have any favorite Hudson valley hikes you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below.
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If you are visiting the Hudson Valley in the fall, be sure to read Top Ten Things to Do in the Hudson Valley in the Fall.
There are more great hikes to do in the Hudson Valley:
- Best Hikes in the Hudson Valley: A compilation of some of the best hikes in the Hudson River Valley
- Shaupeneak Ridge: A steep hike to the ridge and a waterfall; flat trails past a pond and to a Hudson Valley overlook
- Black Creek Preserve: Several connected trails over a suspension bridge and to direct access to the Hudson River
- Bonticou Crag and Northeast Trail: Part of Mohonk Preserve, includes a cool rock scramble, great views over the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains
James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He is passionate about experiential travel, i.e. meaningful travel that actively engages with the environment and culture. He helps people have similar experiences that involve active participation in activities and festivals; engaging with the local food and handicrafts through lessons and food tours; and interacting positively with environment by hiking, riding, rowing, diving and low/no impact animal encounters.
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